It is anything but. Whatever we might think of Adams, he is not a racist and he did not use the horrible racist term as a device for conveying racist connotations. He most likely employed it, however inadequately, in the context he outlined: having watched the film Django Unchained, he decided to compare the experience of people in Ballymurphy to that of black citizens during the civil rights era in the US. Much as he compared his latest White House snub to the treatment of Rosa Parks. Much as John Lennon and Yoko Ono penned a song Woman is the Nigger of the World back in 1972.
The comparison might look exaggerated, something suggested by the former republican prisoner, Tim Brannigan, who happens to be black and has been the target of racist hate in West Belfast. Yet there are times when people resort to hyperbole to magnify whatever point they seek to make.
Given his contextualisation Adams could plausibly claim that what he is facing is a PC onslaught aimed at eradicating word crime while remaining wholly indifferent to the context is which the word is used. Such a defence would be hindered by the fact that Adams is not a free speech advocate, having long preferred the censorship of opinions he disagrees with.
Whatever way it is played for political advantage, or out of genuine abhorrence, in the heel of the hunt Adams cannot have been oblivious to the way his comment would be taken up and used as a stick to beat both him and the party he leads. He sought to neither protect himself or his party in the run up to an election, even through the use of inverted commas.
In terms of hogging the limelight last night’s N tweet was comparable to earlier tweets about bouncing around trampolines naked with a dog. Nobody seems to believe he actually did that. It is hard to imagine that a greater number genuinely feel his N comment was intended as a racist slur. At worst his pompous self-importance has led to him to place himself at the centre of media attention in the run up to an election in which he is not even a candidate. As the republican activist Nuala Perry once summed matters up: it is all about him. His seeming addiction to controversy, whatever the cost to his party, or its electoral fortunes, is more the product of an egotistical mind rather than the strategic one he is often credited with possessing.
The real N word at play here is not Nigger, but Narcissism.